The Year In Review
Prospects of Monterey's rock scene dwindle.
Thursday, December 23, 1999
R o c k
"I didn''t think the music scene was all that bad," said Blue Butter''s guitarist Steve Mosely at Laundry Werx Studio''s christening party when we talked about the frightful deterioration of our rock scene this past year, and he was right. Granted, we were no San Francisco or Los Angeles, where you can find a gig around every corner but, unlike now, we had places we could go every single weekend.
The closure of Whitey''s Place last April was the first significant blow. Jeff White had always been a strong advocate for the local scene and Whitey''s demise not only took away a venue which, in a lot of cases, was a step up from someone''s garage but it also extinguished the opportunity for us to listen to a wide range of new talent.
Doc''s Nightclub was next. After twenty-something years of live music, on June 5, the legendary club closed its doors for the final time, leaving us standing out in the cold with only a promise of continued live sound at the Long Bar. This turn of events left us more than skeptical, considering the fact that we were supposed to recognize the Long Bar--one of Monterey''s dance clubs, complete with black iron cage--as a venue for live rock ''n'' roll.
As it turned out, booking agent Matt Heimbolt, with the installation of Doc''s sound system at Long Bar and in conjunction with KMBY''s program manager Chris White, made good on the promise. He pulled in legends like The English Beat''s Dave Wakeling, Ambrosia and punksters Agent Orange, as well as up-and-coming talent such as Stroke9, GiftHorse and Joy Drop. Unfortunately, all those hot shows came to town on Wednesdays (KMBY Night) and Thursdays. But the sound was surprisingly good and the musical menu as inviting as ever. The live rock hot spot was once again established--even if it meant that you had to drag yourself half asleep into work the next day.
July 23 found us hopeful with the opening of Starz, a new nightclub that promised a medley of live sound for the weekends. We pushed aside nagging doubts about the club''s small size and loyally came to the opening night to check it out. For a little while, Starz joined Viva Monterey as a place for local musicians to play on the weekends. But Starz'' original vision didn''t pull through. Artistic differences, as well as financial problems, continuously changed the face of its weekly lineup and a few weeks after its grand opening, live music was pushed to Tuesday nights.
Viva dropped out of the race last month and canceled all its weekend gigs without further comment.
As the year slowly drew to an end, the reeling rock ''n'' roll scene staggered toward the new millennium. This time last year, there were holiday jams at Whitey''s, Doc''s, Viva and BlueFin, but this year we are left with coals in our stocking as far as rock is concerned.
Although BlueFin Cafe hasn''t faltered, it continues to offer live sound only as a side dish to playing pool. Even Cibo, Schooners and Britannia Arms offer the occasional live rock, but again, the music is secondary to whatever the venue''s main course happens to be.
"We used to play in front of packed houses, sometimes up to 600 people," Ray Bertolino (formerly of Lovers and Strangers) once told me. "That has changed drastically. Not only do people seem to stay at home nowadays, but all the music like hip-hop, techno and house, for example, doesn''t need a band anymore to be played. You get a DJ and that''s that."
1999 not only bid good-bye to some of its coolest live music hot spots, but to some of its local artists as well. Juice played great rock and had talent, but even the name change to Dick Richie couldn''t mend intra-band differences and their sound slowly faded out from what had been a promising combination at the beginning of the year. Lovers and Strangers entertained the Peninsula with great talent for 14 years before making a final appearance at the closing party for Doc''s. Unknown Jeromes went out with a sudden bang at the end of October.
On the other hand, there were at least two bands, Mr. Dick and InBalance, which practically came out of nowhere, moving straight into the limelight. But great talent and unique music is useless without a venue and this holiday season finds us only with the memories of times past and an ailing music scene that may or may not recover in the new millennium.